ROME — The Vatican uncovered its 2020 manger scene in Saint Peter’s Square Friday, leaving onlookers scattered, scandalized, and scornful.
Observers shoveled abuse upon the unfortunate spectacle, rivaling each other to come up with the most appropriate epithets to describe the appalling scene.
“Mummified Mary,” “Weeble Jesus” (after the ovate children’s toys launched by Hasbro in the 1970s), “Martians,” “toilet paper rolls,” and “astronauts” were some of the comparisons made to the cylindrical figures meant to represent the Holy Family, the Magi, and the shepherds at Bethlehem.
Others saw in one ominous figure the helmeted image of “the Mountain” from the Game of Thrones television series, while another conjured up memories of the Robot from Lost in Space:
As one irate Italian wrote on social media of the Vatican manger scene, “Ugliness is the first thing you notice, followed by a lack of familial warmth and the distancing guaranteed by the cylindrical figures. If you wish to judge harshly, the cylinders call to mind the sacred poles of Satanic cults condemned in the Bible.”
Traditionally, a manger scene is intended to evoke feelings of piety and devotion — not pity and revulsion — over the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and thus this particularly regrettable work offends not only aesthetic sensibilities, but also the religious reverence of the faithful.
The Vatican said the Nativity scene exhibited in St. Peter’s Square was created by the students and faculty of the FA Grue Art Institute, a state-run high school for design, which in the decade of 1965-1975 devoted its scholastic activity to the theme of Christmas.
“We believe that this year’s experience of a Nativity scene donated by an Artistic High School is really a powerful summons for everyone to invest more in the training of the new generations both at the level of middle and high schools and for the university world,” said Bishop Lorenzo Leuzzi in a statement guaranteed to garner broad consensus.